Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Note To Our Readers

For a change, very few problems.

The big question in the e-mails is will be there be an edition next weekend? We're planning on it. Having killed the supsense there, let's take a moment to discuss this edition.

A lengthy piece once again lost in posting (Dona points out that she asked repeatedly, prior to posting, "Do we have a backup copy?" and was assured that we did when we didn't). That ended up being okay because Kayla had given permission for C.I. to carry something over to this site. We congratulate Kayla and her husband on their newborn son Brian. "What Noble Cause?" is the name of that piece and thank you to Kayla for permission to include the photo of her son.

The online novel Miss Swanson Regrets has quite a few fans surprising even Ty who hadn't given it a second thought (or so he says) since last Sunday. When Jess noted the e-mails on it, Ty pulled out the outline and we got to work on a second chapter.

We offer "Five Books, Five Minutes" for those who enjoy the book discussions. (Even those who disagree with our takes on the books we're discussing.) We think there's a variety in this week's selection both in terms of topics and in terms of length.

Ava and C.I. did a rough draft of their TV review while we were trying to figure out if there was a backup copy to the lost piece. They weigh in on Commander-in-Chief. They gave it a polish before publishing. We think the majority will, as usual, e-mail to say it's the best thing in the edition, it's the funniest thing, it's the . . . and we're sure that the three people who have griped about every review since April will continue to write in and make their usual threats of violence.
For you three, who've hung in long after your other crazies have moved on, we'll note that Ava and C.I. don't read the e-mail on their TV reviews. The minute they were identified as the TV reviews, the disagreeing e-mails went from "I disagree" or "You're stupid" to lengthy descriptions of how you'd slit their throats, etc. The rest of us will read your threats but as Dona said, there's no point in Ava or C.I. wasting their time on that "shit." But it's good to know you're still reading. Even if you are frustrated that Ava and C.I. won't meet with you or give out their addresses.

When we say we hope there's something in each edition that makes you laugh or makes you angry or makes you think, we probably should have clarified that while we hoped you would have some sort of reaction, homicidal rage wasn't one we were going for.

As usual we offer an editorial. The piece we lost was on Falluja but we'd already decided the editorial would be on Bob Woodward. (And yes, if you've already read the editorial, C.I. was the one who popped up with "in fairness . . .")

We thank Dallas for hunting down links, we thank Maria for allowing us to rerun her contribution for The Common Ills.

The TV review was written by Ava and C.I.

The credit for all other pieces written for this edition goes to:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
Betty Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
Wally of The Daily Jot
and Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix.

-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: The Spirit Is Willing But The Press Is Weak

It was all so deja vu last week in so many ways.

You had a reporter whom the administration talked to . . . about Valerie Plame. The reporter wouldn't name the source (to the public). The editor of the paper made excuses and offered justifications. Even though the editor had been left out of the loop.

But before you could say "Miller Time!" (can't touch this!), it was "Woody Time!"

Or it would have been.

If the same critics of Judith Miller had any guts.

So we had a deja vu within a deja vu and tripped on back to 1967, to the William Castle film The Spirit Is Willing with the theme cueing up:

The spirit is willing
Your kisses are chilling
The spirit is willing
But the PRESS is weak.

Yeah, okay, we substituted "PRESS" for "flesh."

But what else is it but press?

Yes, The New York Times seriously addressed the story. Out of concern for the integrity of the paper (snicker, snicker) or just to say, "Hey we're not only the ones pimpin'!", they addressed it with some strong reporting.

And the watchdogs. As Aimee Mann might sang, "And the watchdogs just want to sleep in the sun all day." ("'J' for Jules" words and music by Aimee Mann, on the album Everything's Different Now by 'Til Tuesday.)

CJR Daily boasts of real-time media criticsm and includes "daily" in their title (or "The Audit" -- can anyone make sense of their latest extreme make over?) but they've yet to weigh in on Bob Woodward who knew in June of 2003 that the adminstration was leaking on Valerie Plame.

Woody's got a host of reasons depending on the time of day. (And will be on Larry King Monday to tell nothing at all -- apparently Mother Superior Walters was busy.)

Might a real-time media criticism offering watchdog need to weigh in at some point?

We would say "Cat didn't have their tongue on Judith Miller." But Kat outlined how, apparently, the cat did have their tongue on Judith Miller.

Judging by the zeal of their commentary on Miller at the end of the summer, it's hard to imagine that they were silent for so long.

Apparently the pattern now repeates with Woody.

Is "real-time" media criticism only for the likes of Jayson Blair? Do you get a pass for being a "name"?

If that's the case, hand the reigns over to Arianna Huffington who's not afraid to call it like she sees it.

As was pointed out repeatedly at The Common Ills, the problem with The New York Times did not begin and end with Judith Miller. But damned if the dog pile didn't act like it did.

Do most people even grasp that the story most often cited, for good reason, had two writers? Judith Miller and Michael Gordon.

As we pointed out in the spring, as Sally Field, Miller was unbelievable. (We did note that possibly as the Sally Field character in Absence of Malice, she was believable -- the bumbling reporter eager to swallow anything she was fed.) Did Michael Gordon get a pass because he avoided Charlie Rose? Or was it a case of bash the bitch? Or a case of a lot of people piling on without getting the basic information?

Who knows. Miller's gone. Gordon's not even news. Doesn't change a thing at the paper. (Especially if the rumors are true that Miller refused an offer to be kicked upstairs, demanding instead to return to reporting and restore her 'good' name -- that only after that refusal did both sides come to an agreement to part ways. It sounds like a crazy rumor but it's making the rounds and considering everything else that goes on at The Times, we'd argue it's plausible.)

While some have been reluctant to criticize Woody, other voices (including Robert Parry and ones within this community) spent last week explaining how a line can be drawn from the highs of Watergate to the lows of today's journalism and, guess what, Woody can be seen as a common denominator.

Rebecca noted that Seymour Hersh, a contemporary of Woody's during Watergate, has continued to break stories. News stories. Not gossip about who said what to whom in which room of the White House. As C.I. noted Thursday, "Judith Miller could only exist in a forum that rewarded Bob Woodward. Is that hard to fathom?"

No, it really isn't.

It's the issue of trading journalistic independence for access that Amy and David Goodman outline so well in their book Exception to the Rulers. It's a topic Amy Goodman, Robert Parry, Danny Schechter, Norman Solomon and a host of others have noted for many years now.

It only seems "new" apparently to some silent watchdogs.

If these are our watchdogs, thank God for the internet. The net drove the Downing Street Memos and it appears it will have to drive the Bob Woodward story as well.

The five of us currently in journalism classes heard classroom debates on this for most of the week, was it a case of being scared to criticize Bob Woodward or was it a case of Woody's "issues" hitting too close to home?

Some felt Woody's sacred cow status (to the point that he's supposed to be the embodiment of modern day journalism) intimidated some. Others felt certain watchdogs are quite comfortable critiquing errors in a piece but not questioning a system itself.

One of us is saying "in fairness" (we'll bet you can guess whom) that CJR Daily retooled their site at the end of the week and that could explain some of the delay in real-time criticism. If that is indeed the reason for the silence, we're sure we'll see a strong hitting editorial come Monday.

If not, maybe they better drop the slogan and leave the real-time media criticism to Arianna Huffington?

[This editorial was written by The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim,Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),Mike of Mikey Likes It!,Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Betty Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, Wally of The Daily Jot and Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix.]

TV Review: Commander-in-Chief aka The Nah-Nah Sisterhood

It's so hard to keep up with what the press declares feminism is from one moment to the next. Are we post Do-Me-Feminism yet?

We must be post-something when ABC's Commander-in-Chief can be hailed as a brave feminist statement. Commander-in-Chief? The Nah-Nah Sisterhood?

Come on people, even Linda Lavin's Alice had Vera and Flo!

Even Bully Boy could point to Condi, Ann, Christie and Karen.

But like the other "feminist statement" from ABC (Alias) Commander-in-Chief is supposed to get us all excited about a woman surrounded by men.

The Nah-Nah Sisterhood indeed.

There are a number of false statements being passed around regarding this show. One of the biggies is that Geena Davis is playing the first female president of the United States in a TV series. Wrong. Patty Duke has that honor. (Duke did it in a sitcom.) Another of the biggies is that ABC didn't promote it. ABC promoted the hell out of this show. (And continues to do so.) Yes, some women's groups did stage parties to watch it -- we can't imagine why, it's not exactly Cagney & Lacy (to name but one brave show).

So what is it?

Geena Davis gets yet another stab at TV stardom? (Did anyone keep counting after Sara failed?)

We don't like Geena Davis personally so we'll take a pass on her acting. We do like Donald Sutherland but we'll take a pass on his acting as well.

That's because we're going to focus on the "big message." That's the hook that a friend with the show (for now) sold us on when he begged us to review it. (Even supplying us with tapes.) The show's in trouble for a number of reasons (not a good sign when you change show runners this early in the run). Despite this, the ratings are good. Possibly because the show's being pimped like it was photos of your first child.

But sometimes you can't be objective about your own children.

This is being pushed as some sort of a feminist statement. (Katha Pollitt is one of the few who's raised questions about that premise.)

If you've missed the show, you haven't missed much. Well, you've missed two shows -- you've missed Dawson's Creek and The West Wing because each episode seems to devote equal time to both. What do you call the president's teenage twins? Are they old enough to rate as hotties? We'll call them Hot Pockets.

Horace is the male twin and the show loves undressing him. Becca is the female twin and the show loves her brooding. Okay, maybe it's got a little My So Called Life In The White House mixed in as well?

When not dealing with the traumas of Horace hearing a male class mate announce that his twin put out or working itself into a lather over whether or not Becca's diary will be found, the show focuses on the adults. So in these moments, it's a work place TV show.

But it's as though nothing's changed since The Dick Van Dyke Show and our president is Sally Rogers.

Where are the female characters?

There's a Senate leader in one episode, a Democrat, who's a woman. She and Mac don't get along, "Mac" is President Geena Davis. In fact, their one scene can be described in one word: "Meow!" Other women? There's "Gilda" the bitchy, star reporter. (Yes, we think we know who they mean as well.) And?

That's really it. In terms of holding any power, that's it. You get a blond female who plays the lacky Scotty McClellan role -- apparently women are good at "communicating" (wow, what a breakthrough!). And you get men. Lots and lots of men. In the first episode, Davis wore a red sweater that people still can't shut up about. It should have been a pink satin dress, the one Marilyn Monroe wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, because, like Monroe, she's surrounded by men.

Where Monroe played dumb, Davis plays plucky.

Mac wastes hours and hours of time listening to men tell her what to do, what she should do, and what she will do. Then Mac goes off and does what she wants. (If she had a maid named Milred, we might be able to get into it.)

This is the President of the United States. Acting like the night manager of Wendy's.

In the first episode, Donald Sutherland, as Speaker of the House, tells her she should want to be president for the power. Apparently Mac wants to be president for the pluck.

Whining about missing a family dinner when it's eleven o'clock elicts no sympathy for a character who's refused to stand up for herself and use the power that she has.

We searched in vain, through aired episodes and unaired ones, to find some sort of a feminist conscience to the show. We couldn't. While it's true that Davis rescues a woman in a foreign country, we're not really sure that "Send in the Marines" (even with Sondheim chords) will rank up there with Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" as a feminist anthem.

This manuever was applauded by some critics. We're failing to see the "feminism" involved in Davis' decision. She attempted to get international support, while still vice-president, and was shot down. So she's acting unilaterally.

For those who can't connect real lives with TV lives, let's speak slowly, unilaterally is an approach the Bully Boy endorses and, unless we missed it, he's yet to make the cover of Ms.

Like the Bully Boy, Davis sends in the marines not because the United States is threatened.
She's willing to risk a war because she wants to act alone and because she's "plucky."

Well hell, smear some of Davis' crimson lipstick on the Bully Boy and let's all hail him as "plucky" as well.

Okay, well what about her background?

It's sketchy. But let's go over what viewers know. She's an "independent." She was elected on a ticket with a man, Republican, whose ideas go against everything she stands for. There's much talk of this in the first episode where we learn that she won't carry out the ailing president's "agenda" but that the Speaker of the House would (and turn back the clocks in the process).

This is feminism? This isn't feminism, this is Dan Quayle sop thrown out in an attempt to get voters -- to fool them.

How can Mac be part of a ticket pushing an agenda she doesn't believe in? Or, for that matter, an agenda she strongly opposes? Mac appears to be, from the start, in it for herself. Nah Nah to notions of Sisterhood.

Davis wrongly won an Oscar (supporting) for The Accidental Tourist (Michelle Pfeiffer should have won for Dangerous Liasons) and now she plays The Accidental President and for some reason we're supposed to be thrilled.

A sell-out, who wants to be a vice president just to be vice president, is elevated to the presidency and, surrounded by men, demonstrates she's got the "stones" to be as arrogant as any male before her. This is what passes for feminism today?

How many episodes is Mac's husband going to wring his hands over being First Gentleman? And what messages does the repeated hang wringing send? That's a serious question, one put to us by a long term feminist, who gave up on the show this week, when Geena Davis's Mac had a snit fit that an employee was gay and had AIDS.

When Mac's informed, her stance is that those are private issues. Then, when alone with the male, she tears into him about keeping secrets from her and demands his resignation. Did anyone see the contradiction in the two scenes? Does Mac need to be the center of attention for all the men around her? Or is she supposed to be playing the Global Mother of us all?

That would explain another scene that's been hailed. In the first episode, riding in a limo with staff, husband and toddler, the child spills her red juice on Mac. The husband explodes while Davis is serenity -- above it all. What was worth "hailing" about that? Mac should have stepped in immediately to defend her child (from her husband) but was too busy beaming. And if there's a need to explode, how about exploding at the adult fool who let a child carry red juice in a limo without a lid on the cup?

What really frightens us, besides the fact that a backlash only takes root when people who should know better applaud this junk, is an elitist attitude that seems to greet this show.

"We got our woman president!"

Consider us too grass-rooty but we don't see that as an end all be all. We weren't among the ones saying "At least we still got Martin Sheen on TV" so maybe we're missing it. But honestly, we'll take an Alice over a Commander-in-Chief. Give us working class women who pull together over a queen bee living a rarified life.

We've never doubted that a woman could be president (and at some point will be). But we've never assumed that gender would be an answer. A woman who supports equality? Absolutely, that's a great thing. A woman who makes her way as an exception, backs up an agenda she doesn't believe in and does nothing to help other women? We don't see the point in applauding that.

It's a pertinent issue as two women are repeatedly named as potential candidates in the real world: Condi Rice and Hillary Clinton. If either woman (or both) runs, will we get the same giddy "It's a woman!" nonsense? Under no circumstance would either of us vote for Rice. We'd be reluctant to vote for Clinton considering her waffles on the issue of choice and her stance on the war. But will those issues be silenced in the giddy cry of, "It's a woman! It's a first!"

That's troubling.

We bounced ideas for this review off a number of feminist friends. The only trace of "feminism" anyone could find in Commander-in-Chief was one woman who noted that the episode that aired Tuesday featured Mac telling her teenage daughter that she wasn't a virgin when she married.

So feminism is now defined by when you lost your cherry? Our culture's back to pimping Hugh Hefner as a voice of "liberation"?

While it's true that Bully Boy has lowered the expectations for the nation, we're not willing to drop our principles and then limbo beneath them. It's depressing to realize how quickly we've gone from The Ya Ya Sisterhood to The Nah Nah Sisterhood.

Five Books, Five Minutes

Another book discussion, another Five Books, Five Minutes. Participating in this discussion are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz and Wally of The Daily Jot.

Jim: We have mixture of books this week. We'll be dealing with music, politics, essays, prose poems and autobiography. We'll start with Betty's pick.

Betty: I was a Twin Peaks freak. So when I saw Peggy Lipton's Breathing Out, written with David and Coco Dalton, I had to pick it up. Peggy ran the diner on Twin Peaks and she was married to Quincy Jones. That's really all I knew until I read the book.

Mike: I was reading this book in the living room and Dad comes by and does a double take and starts hollering for Ma. He's going Mod Squad and Julie and I had just started the book and had no idea what he was going on about.

C.I.: From 1968 through 1973, Peggy Lipton played Julie on ABC's The Mod Squad. The premise was three kids were brought into the police force. A reunion TV movie would be made in the late seventies, but Lipton's Julie was sidelined, among other problems. The Mod Squad was part of ABC's attempt to get the youth of America watching.

Rebecca: And you had blonde Julie, a runaway with a mother who was a prostitute, Linc, who grew up in poverty and was African-American and Pete who was a rich white kid who was seen by his family as a deliquent.

Wally: I've never seen the show and actually wished I had after reading the book but I also wished that there had been a bit more on it. The reunion movie, is it mentioned?

C.I.: No.

Wally: She writes about it like being in the same grade with the same people, year after year.

Cedric: It's really not an acting book though. It's more about her own journey and demons.

Dona: Regardless, I'd say the decision not to include the reunion movie was a mistake since she speaks of having given up acting to be a mother. What was it like when she balanced the two?

Betty: But we learned about her affairs with Paul McCartney and Elvis Presley and her almost affair with Sammy Davis Jr.

Elaine: She -- I liked the book, but . . . I'd say that if you're looking for a chronicle of the times, you're going to be hugely disappointed because she lived a very solitary life for most of it. When she begins dealing with her childhood abuse, she begins connecting with the world around her, whether it's volunteering in Los Angeles or whatever. But, this was where the book was lacking for me, what was going on in the solitary moments? She wrote songs, we're told in one chapter. She had a piano while living with her parents. So when she's off the set in one of her depressions on the weekend, what is she doing? I don't feel the book gave us any insight there. I also do not grasp how she can write a song that's a title tune to a Robert Altman film and not include even a passage from the lyrics. There were times, and she's the poster board for California blonde --

C.I.: I'd argue Michelle Phillips.

Rebecca: I'd agree.

Elaine: (laughing) I'll allow it. But she would throw out something like reading Anais Nin, who we're reviewing this discussion, and it would be obvious that something was going on during her downtime. What was it? It's not party. So what is she doing? There's a whole section of her life missing from the book until she marries Quincy Jones.

Kat: I'd agree with that 100%. The 60s moment is her audition for The Mod Squad. She's not sure what to wear, she smokes a joint, ends up five hours late, nails the audition and gets Danny Thomas' approval. Reading that, I'm wondering, "Joint?" Not in a judgemental way but in a "where are the other turn ons?" She's got a joint lying around the house, fine. But there's nothing, for me, that really leads up to that moment. What was she doing on the weekends? Getting stoned and writing songs? Whatever it was, it's not in the book. And I think it suffers for that. I also agree with Elaine that this isn't a chronicle of the times. Whatever she's doing on the weekends, it's not keeping her in contact with the times.

C.I.: She was dancing at the Daisy and she notes that. But I get your point.

Betty: I'll agree that with Quincy Jones' entrance in the book, it comes alive. I think that's actually where the book hits its stride.

Ty: The parts about her children follow that and that's a strong section of the book. I felt we got a better insight into her when she's explaining her daughter's decision to attend a certain high school and her own decision to go along with it.

Jim: So we recommend it or not?

Elaine: Kat and I were the only ones with reservations. I think it's written quite well in terms of style but let's point out the book bears the name of three people. I enjoyed it.

Kat: I'll recommend it with a qualifier. If you liked Peggy Lipton, you'll like the book. If you're a fan of The Mod Squad, look for something else. There's really nothing that insightful or deep about the show in here. I don't know if she didn't want to write about the period or she couldn't remember it, but I was very disappointed in that section. That's the reason girls wanted to look like her, that's when everyone knew who she was. If you're trying to figure out who Peggy Lipton was then, you won't get a clue.

C.I.: I'll jump in. The book does go deeper as it goes along. It's never slow reading. You're never bored. Since she came to fame at the tail end of the chronological sixties, which would extend culturally a few more years, there is an expectation that there would be some insight into those years but there's really not. What the book emphasizes, such as her cancer, it does some in a very naked manner.

Jim: So we'll say recommended but don't expect to learn a great deal about The Mod Squad. I'll add it seemed like there was more about life on the set, specifics, of Twin Peaks than there was about The Mod Squad. Peggy Lipton writes of reading Anais Nin and we've got one of her books for this discussion so let's go to that next.

Kat: I picked this one thinking it would illuminate the world of Nin for those who missed it when we read A Spy In The House Of Love. I believe I was wrong. The book we read this time is House of Incest which is Nin's prose-poem in novel form.

Rebecca: And I'm going to start because I was on vacation when A Spy In The House of Love was reviewed and didn't get to take part. I love Nin's language. I really love it in this tale.

Jess: I'll go along with that. I didn't get into A Spy In The House Of Love. With House of Incest, I had no idea what she was talking about but the imagery was distinct and well crafted.

Wally: But where was the incest?

Elaine: It was self-love, self-absorbtion.

Mike: Sabina pops back up in this.

Kat: Watch out, McKinnon, Sabina's my favorite of all of Nin's characters.

Mike: I'm just wondering if this happens a lot? The same characters in the works?

Rebecca: Sabina pops up a lot. She's June Miller, right?

Elaine: She's a bit Anais and a bit June, I'd argue, but if you've read the diaries or the journals, it's impossible not to note the similarities between things June did and things Sabina does.

Jess: I'll offer a section of the book that stood out:

I was carrying her fetiches, her marionettes, her fortune teller's cards worn at
the corners like the edge of a wave. The windows of the city were stained
and splintered with rainlight and the blood she drew from me with each lie, each
deception. Beneath the skin of her cheeks, I saw ashes: would she die
before we had joined in perfidious union? The eyes, the hands, the senses
that only women have.

Ty: I'll agree with Jess about the imagery. I would've picked the passage that begins, "I walked into my own book, seeking peace . . ." But I agree with the point on the imagery.

Cedric: There have been books we've read that I had to struggle to get through because I was so bored. I found this book stimulating with the use of words. Whether you can decode the meaning or not, I think it's worth reading. Anything like this is going to make you expand a little because it's not linear.

Jim: So we say recommended and on linear, we turn to my pick, Catherine Crier's Contempt: How The Right Is Wronging American Justice. I loved this book.

C.I.: I have a negative criticism so I'll go first. This isn't about Crier's writing. It is about the publisher. Who proofread this and how did it get printed as is? You've got quotes that lose the ending quotation marks; the first line of the second paragraph in the book has no spaces between any of the words: "TapedattheTwoRiversBaptistChurchinNashville,Tennesee,"; and I could go on from there. If that happened in a daily paper, or on a website, big deal. But books are edited and proofed. Typos will still appear but the amount in this book exceeds what even I will allow. I can deal with the wrong word being in a sentence, in fact Elaine called me about one paragraph and I had substituted the correct word without even realizing it --

Elaine: C.I. speed reads.

C.I.: But there were so many mistakes, printing mistakes, I'm not criticizing Crier, that it really needs to be noted in this discussion.

Jim: I'll agree with that and I'm far less tolerant of typos in books than you are. For the reasons that you listed. Most of these mistakes should have been caught when the book was in galley form. As for the arguments of the book, I found them sound except in one instance when I couldn't figure out what the printing error was, but she lost me on a paragraph and I sat there rereading it trying to figure out where the printing error was and finally gave up, skipped three pages and dived back in.

Betty: The argument of her book is that the religious right is using selective readings of selective bits of history to argue that the nation was founded as a Christian nation when that's not the case. She provides examples at length and, this is what C.I. and I talked about when we talked about the book, she's not just providing a history, she's tying it into today and giving you context. She explains the dangerous climate the country is in today and why this is dangerous.

Ty: And we should note, because she does, that she does not want to be seen as a liberal. She identifies as an "independent" and was an elected judge in Texas as a Republican.

Ava: And since a number of Common Ills community members are in Texas, we should note that she often uses Texas for examples. For instance, noting that Orin Hatch represents "millions" she points out that yes, two million is "millions." She then goes on to point out that the city of Houston, Texas has roughly the same amount of people as the state of Utah. The "millions" is a strong section of the book. She explains that we're a nation of over 270 million, I believe that's the figure, and that saying "millions" agree with whatever right-wing program is rather meaningless when you look at the size of the country. She documents that support for Roe v. Wade hasn't eroded and is still favored by the majority of Americans.

Ty: And she notes that it's not just abortion or just gay rights, that the religious right wing agenda is against all forms of sex outside of marriage and against contraception regardless of marital state since it turns sex into an act done for pleasure's sake.

C.I.: And to clarify, she's speaking of the right wing fundamentalists. She's not writing an attack on religion and she makes that clear nor is she attempting to trash each and every person who identifies as Republicans.

Cedric: What stood out to me was James Dobson. There's no appeasing that crazy. I was reading it and what I flashed on was when you wrote "Focus on Fool" and --

C.I.: I know where you're headed, no names.

Cedric: Okay, someone else wrote later that day that we didn't need to mock the religious and we needed to understand them and work towards finding our common ground with them. This man's a zealot. There's no common ground to be found with him.

C.I.: Which is the danger in writing about them. Someone who hopefully knew nothing about James Dobson wrote that inane piece of nonsense. What surprised me was that Crier speaks of his reach in various formats, such as radio, but she doesn't note that he also has syndicated TV spots that run on local news programs. They're usually introduced with something like, "Now here's James Dobson with the Focus on the Family moment." And, I've seen this repeatedly while traveling, he comes off like Mr. Rogers and is just as sweet as he can be. So maybe the person who wrote the thing Cedric's referring to saw one of those spots and thought, "Oh, I can find common ground with that." There is no common ground with James Dobson.

Kat: Spank your kids and don't buy Barbie! That's James Dobson at his most "light hearted."

Dona: And when someone doesn't know a thing about James Dobson or TD Jakes to name another one no left site should be citing, you really wish they'd do a little work before they did their shout outs. But I agree with Cedric. I think I was the first to complain about that idiot in an e-mail when that happened.

C.I.: I believe you were.

Betty: And that's so obvious to me that I have to wonder about the people who give shout outs to them. I'm in church every Sunday morning and every Sunday evening as well on Wednesday nights. I was raised in the church I go to and no one could get away with calling me anti-religious, unless they wanted to take on my congregation. But I don't vote for a politician to give me spiritual guidance and I'll toss out that I'm really troubled by the injection of spirituality into politics. I was before I read the book but when, for instance, Crier was talking about the war on our public schools and the utilization of those spaces for worship presented as "clubs," I was really dismayed.

Ty: She also does a strong refuting Bill Frist's claims that Clinton's nominees got an up or down vote.

Cedric: I'll agree with that and I'll drop back to what Betty said because I really don't go to politics for my religion. And when some stupid idiot starts mixing the two on a web site, I'm thinking of one in particular, I just feel like, "Lady, I don't know you, don't talk to me about what my relationship with God should be or what you think it is." I don't think she realizes how annoying she comes off. Like Betty, I'm at every service of my church. I don't need someone trying to give me a sermon. She seems to think that she since believes in Jesus that I'm going to agree with her sermons because I believe in Jesus and I don't agree with her sermons and that quite often go against what my church believes in. But then my church doesn't do shout outs to TD Jakes. There were a lot of reasons I had to stop going to her site but her constant need to inject her religion, or her understanding of it, and to assume that everyone who was a Christian would feel the same was really annoying. And that's the danger in mixing the two for the Democratic Party. America is full of believers, nonbelievers and people who don't think much about it either way and probably a host of others. But it's a mistake to think all believers, or even all believers on the left, are going to share your beliefs. The more specific you get, the more you alienate people. And Crier points out that the fundamentalists are a small segment but they turn out and vote and that's why they have some power on the right. There's been too much talk about religion in the Democratic Party since the election and not enough talk about unemployment and minimum wage.

Rebecca: And Cedric does talk about his religion at his site from time to time but it's never a "Hey, guys, we all feel this way and this is what we all believe and hey we can all come together and . . ." bullshit.

Cedric: Exactly. If I'm talking about my church, I usually include some stories from friends about their churches because belief in Jesus does not mean everyone believes in the same stuff after Jesus. I do not give sermons or sermonettes. There's a thing I'm going to write at some point about donations because there's been a lot of e-mails from every side imaginable on that. But if I'm talking about my church, I'm usually talking about it in terms of "We decided to do this to . . ." Like the computers for the elderly. I'm not giving a sermon. I'm not a preacher. I think you convey more with your actions than with your words. I'm writing about the actions of my church when I write about it. And Rebecca just said "bullshit" and I'm sure some church goer somewhere would get upset about that. It doesn't bother me in the least. To someone else that would be a major thing. It depends upon the church you go to and we need to stop thinking, the Democratic Party, that there's this catch all blue print that's going to bring in the mythical "values voters."

Elaine: Or that we don't have them already and haven't for some time.

Cedric: Exactly. For many people opposition to this war is a based on religious principles. For others it's a moral position or an ethical position or any number of reasons. When you start crafting this one single message, you're going to turn a lot of people off.

Jim: And I'd argue that since this was the most lively exchange we've had so far in this discussion that this argues that Crier's Contempt is a book you should check out. Our next choice was Rebecca's.

Rebecca: C.I., Elaine and I have all been joking back and forth with each other at our sites about books we give to each other. One book that C.I. gave me that I've always meant to read but never gotten around to was Alice Walker's In Search Of Our Mother's Gardens.

Ty: This was a great book. These are essays, the subtitle to the book is "womanist prose," and they are some outstanding essays. Like most people, I knew Walker's fiction. And we've read some of her poetry for discussions here. But this was my first time reading any of her essays.
With a lot of writers, you read one genre and that's their solid footing. Walker's really able to work in various genres and do strong work throughout. My favorite was "The Unglamorous but Worthwhile Duties of the Black Revolutionary Artist, or of the Black Writer Who Simply Works and Writes."

Cedric: I'd agree that's a good one but for me the one that stood out was "Coretta King Revisted" due to Coretta Scott King's recent health problems.

Betty: I actually skipped that one because her stroke still saddens me. She's someone who's always been larger than life to me, someone to look up to and, since her stroke, the tears well up too easily so I took a pass on that essay. Her essay on Buchi Emecheta's Second Class Citizen was the one that had me thinking the most.

C.I.: "A Writer Because Of, Not In Spite Of, Her Children."

Betty: Right and that's probably why it spoke to me. I'm getting about one thing a week written now days. The kids seem more rowdy than ever. I usually write when they're down for the night. I need those quiet moments and that section made me think and spoke to me.

Rebecca: What I enjoy most about Walker's work is the forward vision. She's not merely jotting down what is, but seeing what can be. For me, that's best captured in the essay "If The Present Looks Like The Past, What Does The Future Look Like?"

Ty: I'll go with the memories of her childhood that pop up in many of the essays. They really are vivid.

Jess: With strong imagery. Ty and I were talking about "Lulls" this week.

Ty: That's the one where she goes back to Atlanta. A woman, named Mabel?, makes the point about the jokes on Sanford & Son at the expense of Aunt Esther and how white people have called African-Americans "gorillas" for years and then seeing the same thing done on Sanford & Son with Aunt Esther means "They probably think they're right." There was a great deal of reflection on cultures and race but I'll go with that example because I think it will be the easiest to relate to.

Jim: Dona's motioning for time so we'll move on to the next book and Dallas reports there's no link. He tried Powell's, he tried Amazon. Wally found the book at a neighbors and the rest of us got it via interlibrary loan --

Rebecca: C.I. and Elaine actually had a copy of it on their book shelves.

Jim: I did not know that. Wally, set us up.

Wally: It's Rolling Stone magazine's The 100 Greatest Albums of the 80s. This was one of the neighbors that were packing up since there was still no electricity. My grandfather and I were helping her pack up. She was taking a lot and had a trailer in fact. So she calls a break and says she's going to make us lunch and to sit down and relax. The book was on a book case in her living room and I just picked it up and started flipping through it. When she came out to say lunch was ready, she insisted I take it. She said she couldn't even remember which child or grandchild's book it was. I kept saying no because we were happy to help out and she kept insisting and finally my grandfather whispered to just say thank you. Later he said she's not the type to ask for help with anything and she'd feel better giving the book for our help. And I think I just ate up all our time with that explanation.

Dona: We'll extend by five, ten if a discussion blossoms.

Mike: So it's reviewing the decade of the eighties, in music, by noting their picks for the top 100 albums.

Elaine: And to clarify, this was actually an issue of Rolling Stone. This was the cover story and they turned it into a book. I think even the cover is the same as it was on the magazine, right?

C.I.: Actually, I could be wrong, but I'm remembering the magazine cover having a white background.

Mike: I didn't know most of the albums.

Ty: I knew maybe half and of those half, only about half would make my list.

Kat: And when you've got one woman on a panel of fourteen, you know the kind of results you're going to get. No Kate Bush, who I can't listen to but she did work with noting, one album by Pretenders and only one. Learning to Crawl kicks ass and should be on the list. But no woman gets more than one album and the panel goes with the first album by Pretenders -- when men had a stronger say in the group, big surprise. You'd be hard pressed to find many people as eager as I am over each new Stones' release but Steel Wheels is not a great album in any year.

C.I.: In real time, Elaine and I trashed this list at length. 100 albums and only eight women make it as solo artists, one album each. Pretenders is the only group fronted solely by a woman that makes the list. I think we both felt that there were probably 20 albums on this list that deserved to be.

Elaine: Right. This was albums, not singles. Human League makes the list and I remembered thinking then "Don't You Want Me" is a nice single, the album was all that was wrong with so many albums in the early 80s, two to three tracks worth listening to and then filler. But it beats, on their system, Sting's Nothing Like The Sun, Aretha's Who's Zoomin' Who, Bruce Springsteen's The River, David Bowie's Let's Dance, Jackson Browne's Lives In The Balance, George Michael's Faith, John Mellencamp's Scarecrow and a host of other albums.

C.I.: And Elaine loved Scarecrow.

Rebecca: That's right. She got us those watches with the quote from "Between A Laugh And A Tear" inscribed on them!

Elaine: Now I'm embarrased. But I do love that album and I do love that song. I don't have it on CD so I haven't listened to it for years. When the list was published, CDs were taking off but not completely. More importantly, the format that probably sold the most in the eighties was casettes. And let me embarrass Rebecca by noting that she went through repeated copies of Stevie Nicks' Wild Heart.

Rebecca: There was tape drop out in those days. Where you'd lose sound for a second or two on some tapes you played a lot or maybe someone stopped them in a spot before the song was over.

Elaine: The cassette came with a paper booklet of lyrics. Everytime Rebecca lost the paper booklet, which was over and over, she'd rush out and get a new copy of Wild Heart.

Betty: I grew up during that time and I can't believe that Diana Ross' diana didn't make the list. That was the party album for my older brothers and sisters and you couldn't go anywhere without hearing "I'm Coming Out" and "Upside Down" on the radio. I actually think side two, back in the days of cassettes and vinyl, there were "sides," was better than the hits everyone knew.

Jess: I was glad Steve Earl had an album on the list but I was wondering where the new country was. That was a big thing and it went beyond Lyle Lovett who also made the list. I had an aunt who loved Roseanne Cash and I asked her about it on the phone. She said that King's Recrod Shop and The Wheel were nineties albums. An album that was from 1980 and one I grew up loving was Stevie Wonder's Hotter Than July and it's not on the list nor is anything else by Stevie Wonder. So when they start tossing in Oh Mercy by Bob Dylan, I've got a problem.

Cedric: I love Marvin Gaye, but I would've picked Hotter Than July over the lifeless Midnight Love which seems to be on the list just because it's Gaye's last album and because it had the single "Sexual Healing." I can't listen to that album and I have it on CD. It just sits on the shelf.

Dona: E-mails came in telling me that Ty had spoken only once in the last discussion. And I've cut off discussions in the past without realizing that Elaine or Kat hadn't been able to weigh in. So before I cut this off, if anyone hasn't had their say they better rush in now.

Ty: I think we've all had a say this time.

Jim: Then Jess, wrap this book up.

Jess: Any list, like any review, is subjective. The best enjoyment from a book like this will come from making your own lists, or discussing it with a friend. I worry about anyone who sees the title, picks it up and walks away thinking, "Those were the best albums." The eighties relied heavily on synthesizers and few artists found a way to humanize them. Tina Turner makes the list with Private Dancer and her voice could cut through the synthesizers and provide honest, real emotion. That wasn't the case for a lot of artists. After Hotter Than July, my pick for CD that should have made the list would be Carly Simon's Coming Around Again which came out in 1988 and actually managed to balance synths with emotion. On that album she was assisted by Roberta Flack, Stevie Wonder and others and as one of the few albums that managed to actually sound like it came from a person, and not a machine, it's omission is as glaring as omitting Hotter Than July.

Jim: So those are our five books for the week. Hopefully you'll be able to tell by our discussions if something's for you or not. And Raymond wrote in to say that he hopes we'll always state when we really hate a book because those are the ones he ends up enjoying, the books he ends up enjoying. Glad to be of assistance to you, Ray. Sorry that there wasn't one we hated this week.

What noble cause?

Bully Boy's been on another bender, telling all who would listen that we have to stay the course on the cakewalk that's turned into quicksand.

If you missed it, the fatality count for American troops is 62 for the month of November, 2091 since the invasion.

He whines "stays the course" and the country replies "divorce."

There are bad ideas and then there are really bad ideas.

And then there are Bully Boy ideas.

It takes a Bully Boy to cook the intel on WMD. It takes a Bully Boy to launch a pre-emptive war based on that gut feeling that never helped him when it came to drilling for oil. It takes a Bully Boy to smear opponents in a such a way that Nixon's book of dirty tricks starts reading like Emily Post.

Some ideas just never pan out. As a former franchise owner, perhaps the Bully Boy should consider the fate of the Anaheim Amigos?

A Common Ills community member gave birth Wednesday to Brian. She wonders exactly when this war ends? Will it end before Brian's starting pre-K? How about junior high?

There's no end in sight.

Kayla says that she looks Brian and thinks about the men and women, on all sides, who are dying in a war that the Bully Boy can't explain.

She feels like we're stuck over there until we start demanding action from our representatives who seem only now to be catching on to what polls have reflected for some time: America doesn't want this war.

"It was Bully Boy 'choice' but everyone else pays the cost," Kayla says and she wonders how much longer?

We wonder that too.

Kayla wonders what the country's reactions would be if instead of adult photos of the fallen, the newspapers ran baby pictures?

She wonders what it will take to reach that less than 40% who continue to support the war of the choice that "was deception from the start"?

2091 dead and Bully Boy still can't answer Cindy Sheehan's question of what noble cause. Kayla says it reminds her of the U2 song "40" (War): "How long, how long, to sing this song?"

Miss Swanson Regrets Chapter II

This is chapter two of the ongoing Ms. Swanson regrets. For chapter one, click here.

Chapter Two

You never knew what would set her off.

One morning, Miss Swanson was happy to reflect on her peers. The next, just the mention of Roger Mudd would result in spewing. She was like a coffee maker on the fritz, always in danger of shorting out.

Randy had resisted her suggestions that they move their interviews to a later time. By mid-morning, she was half-way through a bottle of Wild Turkey and he doubted she slacked off as the sun set. It was day three.

The rules were in place. She would great him, he would tell "Miss Swanson" how wonderful she looked, she would insist he call her "Hilda," he would demur and then they'd begin the interview.

There were topics that were off limits by royal decree but, strangely enough, these were the topics she would bring up herself once she got going.

Take her most recent marriage that had ended over a decade prior.

This was "the one." This was what she'd been searching for all her life -- or so she said in countless interviews. They were always seen in photos smiling broadly. Hands around one another. Faces pressed close together. They shared the same hobbies so it wasn't surprising to come across, for instance, a photo of them on the slopes at Aspen.

A month prior to the separation, he had been interviewed by Fortune Magazine. He was in publishing so that wasn't all that surprising. But he'd spoken of her in such glowing terms. There was no hint of problems.

"Goddamn actress!" Hilda had hissed on the second day in the midst of a reflection on Horace, her, so far, last husband.

Randy had stayed silent hoping she might open up further.

She didn't. She fell into a funk and that ended day two.

Day three she was in the midst of recounting her glories of the eighties when she went off on a tangent.

"They wanted to replace me," she said gesturing with her shot glass. "Me! Imagine that. They brought on daytime talent to do a prime time special! Didn't work out, did it? I had 'em by the balls, by the balls! Still do."

This was news to Randy.

"Why would they want to replace you? You were an inspiration to millions."

At "were," Hilda raised an eyebrow.

But she decided to let it pass.

"Don't you listen? I was telling you this yesterday. The goddamn actress."

Sighing, she poured herself another shot.

"Goddamn actress cost me my marriage and nearly cost me my career."

There was a long pause that followed.

Randy wasn't sure what to do.

He decided to go with flattery.

"Well you kept going. Nothing ever stopped you."

"Damn right," Hilda agreed. "Four face lifts, three chemical peels and two nose jobs. I could still pass for fifty. In the right light."

Randy felt an "Of course you could" would sound as phony as it was -- so he stayed silent.

"You know what the key is?" Hilda asked after a few moments of silence. "Know where the bodies are buried. Not just who your boss is screwing but what stories they killed and why. Marriages bust up all the time. These days no one even cares where you're parking your cock, really. But if you know, say, why a peccadillo becomes a scandal but an actual crime is brushed aside, then you got power. I've written my memoirs back and forth, several times over. Each time I sign a deal, they announce it will be my most revealing book yet. And every time that happens, the network offers a bigger raise, a bigger office, you name it. Why? Because they're scared I might really reveal all. Know where the bodies are buried, kid. That's the way it works today."

"Everything changed," she said standing and moving to a window.

"Once upon a time, you could pit 'em against each other."


Hilda spun around a little too quickly for someone consuming as much alcohol as she had. Steadying herself by placing a hand against the wall, she stared at Randy long enough to make him uncomfortable.

"The networks," she said finally. "Back then, who ever you were you could pit 'em against each other. You could be an actress signed to CBS and, even though your contract wasn't up yet, you could sign to another network for a new project as soon as your current contract expired. Good Lord, Susan Lucci played NBC and ABC off each other for years. That's back when the agents ruled. Then everything got bought up by the same people and the possibilities got a lot slimmer."

On "slimmer," Hilda put a hand to her stomach and walked over to a mirror behind the bar to check out her waist line. She also checked her make up. Her own reflection appeared to sober her up and she strode purposefully towards the couch.

"Do you know what power is?" she asked sitting down.


"That's part of it," she said nodding. "You need the knowledge. The know how, the what have you. But it's how you use the knowledge that gives you power."

"By being a trusted news source," Randy replied nodding along.

If Randy were a stand up comedian, he couldn't have had a better audience. The remark produced gales of laughter from Hilda that stopped only when she began hacking.

Wiping some spittle from her mouth, she cursed herself for not giving up cigarettes a decade sooner. Then she leaned forward, cupped Randy's groin and smiled at him.

"What would a trusted news source do with this?"

"Beg your pardon," Randy gulped.

Releasing his groin, Hilda leaned back and studied Randy.

"What would a trusted news source do with what just happened?" she asked him.

"Report it," Randy said wishing she wasn't looking at him so intently.

"So you would dispense the information?"

"A reporter would, right?"

"That would give you a story for one day," Hilda nodded. "For today, you would be the talk of the country. What about tomorrow though?"

"I'd hunt down another story."

"Eager little thing, aren't you?" Hilda mocked. "But here's the thing, by reporting it, you would piss me off. By pissing me off, you would make an enemy. I'd be on the phone to everyone. The world that was so open to you the day before would now start to close off."

Randy studied Hilda as she poured herself another shot.

"Information isn't knowledge," Hilda said before downing the shot glass. "Knowledge is knowing what to report and what not to. By not reporting, say, a clumsy pass, you would have something to hold over someone's head. Or maybe you'd play it as, 'We're in this together' and be welcomed into the club. Either way, chances are you'd have a much longer career. That's how it works. Or that's how it's worked for me."

Miles de estudiantes dicen No a los reclutadores en Boston

"Miles de estudiantes dicen No a los reclutadores en Boston"

Maria: Hola. De parte de "Democracy Now!" diez cosas que vale hacer notar este fin de semana. Paz.

Miles de estudiantes dicen No a los reclutadores en Boston
El Boston Globe informa que más de 5.000 estudiantes liceales, de cinco de los mayores distritos liceales de Massachusetts, quitaron sus nombres de las listas de reclutamiento militar. En Boston, unos 3.700 estudiantes, el 19 por ciento de los inscriptos en los liceos de la ciudad, quitaron sus nombres de las listas de reclutamiento. En Cambridge Rindge y Latin School, más de la mitad del orden estudiantil indicó al sistema de la escuela que no diera sus nombres a las Fuerzas Armadas este año.

Informe: Las Fuerzas Armadas experimentan disminución de metas de reclutamiento
El New York Times informa que un nuevo estudio del gobierno halló que las fuerzas armadas están muy por debajo de las metas de reclutamiento para puestos clave de combate en Irak y Afganistán. La Oficina de Responsabilidad del Gobierno (GAO, por sus siglas en inglés), dice que las fuerzas armadas no lograron reclutar el 41 por ciento de los puestos especiales de combate y no combate. El informe dice que el déficit de soldados fue disimulado al poner demasiados soldados en otros puestos para cumplir con las metas generales de reclutamiento. Derek Stewart, director de personal militar de GAO, comentó: "Los números de reclutamiento agregados son insignificantes. Para que el Congreso y el país entiendan realmente lo que está sucediendo con la fuerza voluntaria y con su capacidad de reclutar y retener a personas altamente calificadas, es preciso disminuir las especialidades de las ocupaciones. Y hacerlo, es muy revelador."

Chalabi se reúne con Cheney y Rumsfeld en Washington D.C.
El controvertido Ahmad Chalabi, ex líder de los exiliados iraquíes, se reunió el lunes en Washington con el vicepresidente estadounidense Dick Cheney y con el Secretario de Defensa Donald Rumsfeld. Antes de la invasión a Irak, Chalabi era un aliado cercano de los neoconservadores estadounidenses y del Pentágono. Las reuniones se realizaron a pesar de que el FBI está investigando si Chalabi reveló a Irán información secreta de Estados Unidos. La semana pasada Chalabi se reunió con la Secretaria de Estado Condoleeza Rice.

El Pentágono admite que utilizó fósforo blanco en Irak
Tras negarlo inicialmente, el Pentágono ahora admite que utilizó fósforo blanco como arma ofensiva en el ataque a Fallujah del pasado noviembre. Las acusaciones fueron realizadas en un documental italiano producido por la RAI, cadena de televisión estatal de Italia. "Democracy Now" transmitió un extracto de la película el martes pasado, el día del estreno. En el mismo programa, el portavoz del Pentágono Steve Boylan negó las acusaciones y dijo: "No conozco ningún caso en el que se atacara deliberadamente a una persona con fósforo blanco." El Pentágono dice ahora que utilizó esa arma contra insurgentes. El fósforo blanco produce un humo blanco denso que puede causar graves quemaduras a la carne humana. El documental de la RAI, titulado "Fallujah: La Masacre Oculta" mostró imágenes de civiles con heridas y quemaduras severas, presuntamente causadas por bombas de fósforo.

Informe: Interrogadores de la CIA ocultan muerte de prisionero
La revista Time informa que interrogadores de la CIA habrían intentado ocultar la muerte de un "detenido fantasma" iraquí que murió mientras era interrogado en la prisión de Abu Ghraib. El informe forense indica que el detenido Manadel al-Jamadi murió por heridas provocadas por uso brusco de la fuerza y por asfixia. Aparentemente fue sofocado cuando se le cubrió la cabeza con una bolsa y se le sujetaron los brazos por encima y por detrás de la cabeza, en una posición similar a la de la crucifixión. Para ocultar la muerte, se limpió la sangre con una solución de hipoclorito antes de que la escena del interrogatorio pudiera ser examinada por un investigador. La capucha manchada de sangre que cubría la cabeza del prisionero también desapareció. A pesar de que la CIA dictaminó que se trataba de homicidio, el interrogador de la CIA implicado en la muerte permanece en libertad y continúa trabajando en la agencia. Jamadi estaba detenido en una parte secreta de la prisión de Abu Ghraib a la que los observadores internacionales, incluyendo a los de la Cruz Roja, no tienen acceso. En las últimas semanas aumentó la preocupación con respecto a lo que sucede en estas prisiones secretas de la CIA. El Washington Post reveló recientemente que la CIA opera una red de prisiones secretas en todo el mundo, incluso en dos países de Europa del Este.

Informe: CIA utilizó aeropuertos españoles para vuelos secretos
El periódico español El País informa que aviones de la CIA hicieron al menos 10 escalas secretas en España mientras transportaban detenidos. Estas escalas secretas ocurrieron en aeropuertos de las Islas Baleares de España. El partido opositor español Izquierda Unida exhortó al Ministro del Interior de España a explicar el uso de aeropuertos de ese país por lo que se describe como "aviones-prisiones" de la CIA. Otro periódico español, Diario de Mallorca, informa que un avión de la CIA que despegó de la Isla española de Mallorca estaba involucrado en el presunto secuestro por parte de la CIA de un alemán nacido en Líbano que fue capturado en Macedonia y luego transportado a Afganistán. El hombre, que luego fue liberado, afirma que en Afganistán lo encadenaron, lo golpearon, le inyectaron drogas y le preguntaron persistentemente sobre sus presuntos vínculos con Al-Qaeda. En Europa se llevan a cabo numerosas investigaciones sobre operativos encubiertos de la CIA allí. El gobierno italiano y el alemán investigan las acusaciones de que la CIA secuestró a individuos dentro de su territorio. Italia pidió la extradición de 22 agentes de la CIA por su vinculación con uno de esos secuestros. El Washington Post también informó recientemente que la CIA tiene dos prisiones secretas en países de Europa del Este.

Republicanos rechazan medida para fijar retirada
En Capitol Hill, la mayoría republicana del Senado aprobó una resolución que exige a la Casa Blanca que entregue informes trimestrales sobre el progreso en Irak y la insta a apresurar el proceso de retirada de los soldados estadounidenses. La resolución fue aprobada luego de que un proyecto demócrata que pedía fijar una fecha para la retirada de los soldados fue rechazado. Los comentarios del Senador republicano Lindsey Graham sobre la propuesta demócrata rechazada fueron: "Creo que refleja un poco de nerviosismo en cuanto a la percepción pública sobre cómo va la guerra, debido a las elecciones (de 2006). Y para ser honesto con usted, la guerra continuará mucho tiempo después de 2006. Estoy más preocupado por hacer las cosas bien en Irak que por las elecciones de 2006".

Demócrata pide retirada inmediata de soldados
En un importante avance en el creciente debate del Congreso sobre la ocupación de Estados Unidos en Irak, un demócrata que votó a favor de la guerra, presentó un proyecto de ley solicitando el retiro inmediato de los soldados estadounidenses de Irak. El legislador demócrata de Pennsylvania, John Murtha, dijo: "Es hora de cambiar la postura. Nuestros militares están sufriendo. El futuro de nuestro país está en peligro. No podemos seguir como hasta ahora. Es evidente que una continua acción militar en Irak no favorece a Estados Unidos, a la población iraquí o a la región del Golfo Pérsico". Murtha es un veterano del ejercito con estrechos vínculos con comandantes militares. También es el demócrata de más alto rango del subcomité de subsidios de defensa de la Cámara de Representantes, y visitó Irak en varias oportunidades. El proyecto de ley que propuso dice entre otras cosas: "El despliegue de fuerzas estadounidenses en Irak, dirigido por el Congreso, queda por la presente terminado, y las fuerzas involucradas deben ser redistribuidas lo antes posible". Esta es la primera vez que se presenta una resolución ante el Congreso pidiendo la retirada inmediata de Irak.En respuesta, el portavoz de la Casa Blanca Scott McClellan, dijo: "el legislador Murtha es un veterano de guerra y político respetado que tiene una trayectoria de apoyo a un Estados Unidos fuerte. Por lo tanto, es desconcertante que apoye las posiciones políticas de Michael Moore y del ala liberal extrema del Partido Demócrata".

Índice de aprobación de Bush cae al 36 por ciento
Según una nueva encuesta realizada por Newsweek, el índice de aprobación del Presidente Bush cayó al 36 por ciento. Por otra parte, el 68 por ciento de las personas encuestadas dijeron que están insatisfechos con el manejo del país.

Se publicaron nuevos documentos acerca del bombardeo de Nixon a Camboya
Documentos recientemente publicados de los Archivos Nacionales proporcionan nuevos indicios de los intentos del gobierno de Nixon de engañar a la opinión pública acerca del ataque a Camboya de 1970. Más de 50.000 páginas de material desclasificado incluyen actas de reuniones del entonces presidente Richard Nixon con sus colaboradores en el momento en que las fuerzas estadounidenses se encontraban en Camboya para apoyar a los sudvietnamitas. Nixon dijo a sus colaboradores: "Eso es lo que diremos públicamente. Pero ahora, hablemos sobre lo que vamos a hacer en realidad." Nixon dio instrucciones a sus funcionarios de que continuaran los bombardeos de Camboya y Vietnam. También les ordenó que extendieran los ataques a Laos, que había permanecido neutral. Nixon dijo: "Quiero que pongan todo el esfuerzo allí, y no escatimen nada. No se retiren por motivos internos, sino solamente por motivos militares".

Maria: In English, here are ten headlines fom Democracy Now! Remember that the headlines are provided daily in English and Spanish and please pass on to your friends. Peace.

Thousands of Students Say No To Recruiters in Boston
The Boston Globe is reporting that more than 5,000 high school students in five of Massachusetts' largest school districts have removed their names from military recruitment lists. In Boston, about 3,700 students, or 19 percent of those enrolled in the city's high schools, have removed their names from recruiting lists. At Cambridge Rindge and Latin School more than half the student body, ordered the school system not to give their names to the military this year.

Report: Military Experiencing Shortfall on Recruiting Goals
The New York Times is reporting a new government study has found the military is falling far behind in recruiting goals for key combat positions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Government Accountability Office says the military has failed to staff 41 percent of combat and non-combat specialist positions. The report says the shortfall was disguised by the overstaffing of other positions in order to meet overall recruiting goals. Derek Stewart, the G.A.O.’s director of military personnel, commented : "The aggregate recruiting numbers are rather meaningless. For Congress and this nation to truly understand what's happening with the all-volunteer force and its ability to recruit and retain highly qualified people, you have to drill down into occupational specialties. And when you do, it's very revealing."

Chalabi Meets With Cheney and Rumsfeld in DC
The controversial former Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi met with Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Washington on Monday. Before the Iraq invasion, Chalabi was a close ally to the U.S. neoconservatives and the Pentagon. The meetings took place even though the FBI is investigating Chalabi for passing U.S. secrets to Iran. Last week Chalabi also met with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Pentagon Admits White Phosphorus Use in Iraq
After initial denials, the Pentagon is now admitting it used white phosphorus as an offensive weapon in the attack on Fallujah last November. The allegations were made in an Italian documentary produced by the Italian state television network RAI. Democracy Now played an excerpt of the film last Tuesday, the day of its premiere. On the same program, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Steve Boylan denied the allegations, saying "I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus." The Pentagon now says it used the weapon against insurgents. White phosphorus produces a dense white smoke that can cause serious burns to human flesh. The RAI documentary, entitled "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre", showed graphic footage of civilians with severe wounds and burns allegedly caused by phosphorus bombing.

Report: CIA Interrogators Covered Up Death of Detainee
Time Magazine is reporting CIA interrogators apparently tried to cover up the death of an Iraqi "ghost detainee" who died while being interrogated at Abu Ghraib prison. Autopsy reports show the detainee Manadel al-Jamadi died of blunt force injuries and asphyxiation. He is believes to have suffocated after an empty sandbag was placed over his head while his arms were secured up and behind his back, in a crucifixion-like pose.0. To cover up the killing, blood was mopped up with a chlorine solution before the interrogation scene could be examined by an investigator. A bloodstained hood that had covered his head also disappeared. Although the CIA has ruled the killing a homicide, the CIA interrogator involved in his death remains free and continues to work for the agency. Jamadi was being held in a secret part of the Abu Ghraib prison that was off limits to international observers including the Red Cross. Concern has been growing in recent weeks over what takes place in these secret CIA prisons. The Washington Post recently revealed the CIA is operating a network of secret prisons around the world including two in Eastern Europe.

Report: CIA Used Spanish Airports for Secret Flights
The Spanish newspaper El Pais is reporting that CIA planes made at least 10 secret stopovers inside the country while transporting detainees. The secret stops occurred at airports in Spain's Baleaic islands. Spain's opposition party - the United Left Party - has called on the country's interior Minister to explain the use of Spanish airports for what it describes as the CIA's "plane-prisons." Another Spanish newspaper -- Diario de Mallorca - reports that a CIA plane that took off from the Spanish island of Mallorca was involved in the alleged CIA kidnapping of a Lebanese-born German who says he was snatched up in Macedonia and then transported to Afghanistan. The man - who has since been released - claims that in Afghanistan he was shackled, beaten, injected with drugs and questioned persistently about his alleged links with al-Qaida. A number of probes are underway in Europe over covert CIA operations there. The Italian and German governments are both investigating allegations that the CIA has kidnapped individuals within their borders. Italy is seeking the extradition of 22 CIA agents for the involvement in one such kidnapping. The Washington Post also recently reported that the CIA has two secret prisons in Eastern Europe countries.

Republicans Defeat Measure For Withdrawal Timetable
On Capitol Hill, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a resolution mandating the White House to provide quarterly Iraq progress reports and urging it to accelerate the process for a withdrawal of U.S. troops. The measure passed after a Democratic measure calling for a specific timetable for troop withdrawal was defeated. Commenting on the rejected Democratic resolution, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said: "I think it speaks to a bit of nervousness about public perception of how the war is going in terms of [2006] elections. And to be honest with you, the war is going to be going on long after '06. I'm more worried about getting it right in Iraq than the '06 elections."

Hawkish Democrat Calls For Immediate Troop Withdrawal
In an important development in the growing Congressional debate over the US occupation of Iraq, a hawkish Democrat who voted to authorize the war has introduced a bill calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania said: "It is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraq people or the Persian Gulf region." Murtha is an army veteran with close ties to military commanders. He’s also the top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, and has visited Iraq several times since the war began. His proposed bill reads in part: "The deployment of US forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.” The bill marks the first time a resolution has been submitted to Congress calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. In response, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said: "Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party."

Bush's Approval Rating Sinks to 36 Percent
Meanwhile new opinion polls show President Bush's approval ratings have sank to just 36 percent. This according to a new poll from Newsweek. Meanwhile 68 percent of respondents said they are dissatisfied with the direction of the country.

New Documents Released on Nixon Bombing of Cambodia
And newly-released documents from the National Archives provide fresh insight into the Nixon administration’s efforts to deceive the public over its 1970 attack on Cambodia. The over 50,000 pages of declassified material include records of then-President Richard Nixon meeting with aides at a time Americans were told US forces in Cambodia were there to support South Vietnamese. Nixon told aides: "That is what we will say publicly. But now, let's talk about what we will actually do." Nixon instructed staff to continue the bombing of Cambodia and Vietnam. He also ordered them to extend the attacks to Laos, which had remained neutral. Nixon said: "I want you to put the air in there and not spare the horses. Do not withdraw for domestic reasons but only for military reasons."

Blog Spotlight: Like Maria Said Paz

At The Common Ills, Maria often does the rundown of headlines from Democracy Now! for the week. She always closes with "paz" and "peace" (the same word, one is the Spanish version, the other the English version). When Elaine was finally talked into (strong armed?) doing her own site, she went with "Like Maria Said Paz" for the title. She saw it as honoring peace and honoring a community member. And the focus on peace, is always at the root of the site. From Tuesday, here is:

"Peace doesn't arrive on empty promises"
Be sure to check out Mike's thoughts on the two items we picked out from Democracy Now! (his site is Mikey Likes It!).

Report: CIA Used Spanish Airports for Secret Flights (Democracy Now!)
The Spanish newspaper El Pais is reporting that CIA planes made at least 10 secret stopovers inside the country while transporting detainees. The secret stops occurred at airports in Spain's Baleaic islands. Spain's opposition party - the United Left Party - has called on the country's interior Minister to explain the use of Spanish airports for what it describes as the CIA's "plane-prisons." Another Spanish newspaper -- Diario de Mallorca - reports that a CIA plane that took off from the Spanish island of Mallorca was involved in the alleged CIA kidnapping of a Lebanese-born German who says he was snatched up in Macedonia and then transported to Afghanistan. The man - who has since been released - claims that in Afghanistan he was shackled, beaten, injected with drugs and questioned persistently about his alleged links with al-Qaida. A number of probes are underway in Europe over covert CIA operations there. The Italian and German governments are both investigating allegations that the CIA has kidnapped individuals within their borders. Italy is seeking the extradition of 22 CIA agents for the involvement in one such kidnapping. The Washington Post also recently reported that the CIA has two secret prisons in Eastern Europe countries.

We kid ourselves that we're in a "clean" war. Less so now. But I can remember when the invasion began, deaths were treated as nothing big. We had a "purpose" so what were a few lives?

Of course those "few" lives were all Americans and we never stopped to study the other deaths, the ones that TV wasn't interested in and, pretty soon, the print media took a pass on as well.

"Clean" war, "safe" war. When you outsource it, it's all the harder for the people to know what you're doing.

What Bully Boy's doing is kidnapping people, who have not been found guilty in a court of law of anything, and then allowing them to be tortured. As C.I.'s pointed out, apparently our rules, laws and mores aren't things we carry inside of us, but only things we hold dear while our feet are planted on domestic soil.

It's as though Bully Boy's strutting around the Oval Office saying, "It's Abu Ghraib, baby! What happens in Abu Ghraib, stays in Abu Ghraib!"

It doesn't work that way. Forget blowback, which is very important, for a moment and just ask yourself, especially all you flag wavers, if the country you support, the ideas you were raised with, mean so little that you dispose of your American citizenship and duties just by leaving the country.

Alito: "The Constitution Does Not Protect A Right To An Abortion" (Democracy Now!):
Newly released documents show that Supreme Court Justice nominee Samuel Alito said 20 years ago "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." Alito made the statements in a job application to become deputy assistant to Ronald Reagan's Attorney General Edwin Meese. In the job application he wrote "I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government argued that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." Alito said it had been a "source of great personal satisfaction" to help advance such legal causes because he believed in them "very strongly." He also wrote at the time "I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values." In the same document he revealed that he was a "lifelong registered" Republican, a Federalist Society member and that he had donated money to the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Conservative Political Action Committee. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the documents reveal that Alito is an "aggressive participant in an ideological movement intended to withdraw discrimination protections from workers." Alito's confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin on January 9th.

Alito meets with Diane Feinstein today. What does DiFi gush to the press? Alito told her he was seeking a political appointment so his remarks shouldn't be taken too seriously. And DiFi gushes that he seemed sincere.

Let's break it down for DiFi.

1) Leave the "peering into the soul" for the Bully Boy.

2) He's seeking an appointment now. The supreme appointment, one to the Supreme Court. There's no higher appointment.

Wait, that's wrong. Usually that's true. But in 2000, we found that a higher office than Supreme Court Justice could be appointed. That's the year where we found out that the office of president wasn't an elected one necessarily, it could also be an appointed one.

3) What he told you, DiFi, should disturb the hell out of you. He told you that he'd say anything for an appointment.

4) Gee, DiFi, do you think he might trot out that trick again?

She embarrassed herself in the John Roberts confirmation hearings. She needs to get her act together. That doesn't mean saying a lot of pleasing things about how as the only woman on the Judiciary Committee, you feel a special obligation.

Don't give anymore empty words. Show some action.

"Other Items" (The Common Ills):
Carl Hulse writes about a plan to get the troops out of Iraq in "Senate Republicans Pushing for a Plan on Ending the War in Iraq:"
In a sign of increasing unease among Congressional Republicans over the war in Iraq, the Senate is to consider on Tuesday a Republican proposal that calls for Iraqi forces to take the lead next year in securing the nation and for the Bush administration to lay out its strategy for ending the war. The Senate is also scheduled to vote Tuesday on a compromise, announced Monday night, that would allow terror detainees some access to federal courts. The Senate had voted last week to prohibit those being held from challenging their detentions in federal court, despite a Supreme Court ruling to the contrary.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is the author of the initial plan, said Monday that he had negotiated a compromise that would allow detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to challenge their designation as enemy combatants in federal courts and also allow automatic appeals of any convictions handed down by the military where detainees receive prison terms of 10 years or more or a death sentence.
Let's file this under believe it when it happens. Not the "plan." Not it being "passed." Elaine and I have said for some time that with the 2006 elections approaching, the occupation so unpopular with the people, a "secret plan" would be announced by Bully Boy. His arrogance has apparently forced Repubes in the Senate to step up first.
I don't want a bumper sticker analysis of the "plan." Before the press trumpets it in headlines, they better examine every detail. (Provided it passes.)
Are the Republicans sincere? Who knows? But the Democrats aren't even pretending at this point. (There are individuals who break the silence on this issue, and certainly in the House we see bravery and leadership, but I'm speaking of those in supposed leadership roles as well as the bulk of the Dems in Congres.)
Maybe the Repubes are sincere? But this trick's been played before, "We'll be out next year!", and Congress passing a slogan isn't going to solve anything (but the election "crisis" faced in November of 2006). Sound cynical? Nixon's "peace plan" seems to be echoing here.

Here's how it went today. A Democratic proposal gets shot down in the Senate today. A similar proposal made by Republicans gets passed. Why?

Because the "plan" is no plan. It's just an attempt to look good in the upcoming elections.
There's no teeth in what was passed. It's non-binding.

Nixon pulled out a "peace plan" when facing elections. In fact, he apparently had Kissinger screw over a plan in 1968, a real plan, because it was more important that he get elected than that the war be ended and the troops brought home. Sound familiar?

So don't get excited by sleight of hand or tricks pulled out as Bully Boy tanks in the polls and as Republicans fret over the elections this month. We've lived through this nonsense before. It's sop tossed out to make you think that something's going to change and they want you to think that until after you vote in 2006.

"Peace Quote" (from me):
Peace doesn't arrive on empty promises.

Blog Spotlight: Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude

Rebecca weighed in on many things this week. We loved her on Woody but we're going with "Jimmy & Billy" because we felt the comparison was apt and one that wasn't being discussed.

"jimmy & billy"
i want to note something by jimmy carter called 'This Isn't The Real America:'

In recent years, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican.
These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights.
Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility.
At the same time, our political leaders have declared independence from the restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing global agreements - including agreements on nuclear arms, control of biological weapons and the international system of justice.
Instead of our tradition of espousing peace as a national priority unless our security is directly threatened, we have proclaimed a policy of "preemptive war," an unabridged right to attack other nations unilaterally to change an unsavory regime or for other purposes. When there are serious differences with other nations, we brand them as international pariahs and refuse to permit direct discussions to resolve disputes.
Regardless of the costs, there are determined efforts by top U.S. leaders to exert American imperial dominance throughout the world.

reading that, i wondered a number of things.

for instance, where's gerald ford? does he want his most remembered public statement to be the pardon he gave nixon?

i thought about how al gore been's outspoken. and thinking of al gore's bravery reminded me of our suddenly shy bill clinton.

where have you gone bill clinton?

is hillary's presidential campaign for 2008 calling all the shots?

or do you just not care?

it's really sickening to see you in photo ops with poppy bush. a criminal who should have been tossed in jail and there's bill clinton smiling with him.

the biggest mistake bill clinton made was in letting all of poppy's crimes be swept under the carpet. there was no thanks for that. instead there's now this illusion that poppy wasn't involved in iran-contra. and there was no 'oh high road, well we'll do the same' instead it was 'we will bury bill clinton with smears and lies!' that's exactly what they tried to there's bill clinton adding luster to poppy.and as bad as that is, it's his silence on the torture and on the war that trouble me the most.

he's married to a war hawk. we get it.

he's also a former president of the united states, our last one elected with no clouds of questions over someone who pledged to uphold the constitution he should have a few op-eds in him on what's going on in our country and what our country is doing to others.jimmy carter's not afraid to use his voice.

carter was a lot stronger than most people gave him credit for being.

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